If power comes with responsibility, like Voltaire and Spiderman said, then legacy comes with scrutiny. So many eyes and ears are trained on 31-year-old Ashley Campbell. The multi-talented artist spent the early 2010s as a band member supporting her father Glen Campbell’s long farewell tour. Through his final years of decline with Alzheimer’s disease, she helped with a documentary about the star, landed and wrangled out of a major label record deal, and wrote the songs that would become her solo debut.
The Lonely One came out May 11. Campbell performed at The Station Inn and The Grand Ole Opry to celebrate. Those venues, famous for bluegrass and commercial country of all eras, say something about the album’s hybrid sound.
“I love the old school. I love the new school,” Campbell says. “I’d say it’s got a lot of elements of classic country or Americana but it also has a little bit of a modern edge to it.”
Her producer was her brother Cal, who she says pushed her out of her comfort zone with his pop leaning sensibilities. Still, besides the cheeky kiss off songs and sad breakup songs, there’s a bluegrass breakdown co-written and played with roots star and her godfather Carl Jackson. Reviews have praised her sense of humor mingled with her eye for the complexities of being on one's own, something she now knows a lot about.
In this interview taped for WMOT's The String, Campbell talks about getting involved in the Music City scene.
I moved to Nashville in 2013 and that’s when I started writing songs every day. I went through a lot. I had a record deal with Big Machine and that wasn’t the right fit for me. So four years later I’ve got all these songs ready to go. And I was like I need to make an album. I can’t wait for another record deal. I just have to make this music and get it out there and start living my career.
On putting her father's legacy in proper perspective:
Obviously I want to be my own artist and like me for me and not just because of who my dad is. But of course at the same time I’m so proud of where I came from and so grateful that I had that upbringing and that I got to grow up and live around that kind of talent and music.
On lessons learned from playing and touring with her father:
When you start out playing, your worst fear is messing up a lyric or making a mistake. But watching my Dad, he knew that he was having some trouble. So when he would make a mistake he would just laugh it off. If you make an honest mistake and totally blank and say I’m going to get that right, as long as you don’t panic or you don’t look uncomfortable, the audience is not going to remember that.